Winter Olympic Games - Controversy - Commercialisation


Avery Brundage, as president of the IOC from 1952 to 1972, rejected all attempts to link the Olympics with commercial interests as he felt that the Olympic movement should be completely separate from financial influence. The 1960 Winter Olympics marked the beginning of corporate sponsorship of the Games. Despite Brundage's strenuous resistance the commercialisation of the Games continued during the 1960s, and revenue generated by corporate sponsorship swelled the IOC's coffers. By the Grenoble Games, Brundage had become so concerned about the direction of the Winter Olympic Games towards commercialisation that, if it could not be corrected, he felt the Winter Olympics should be abolished. Brundage's resistance to this revenue stream meant that the IOC was unable to gain a share of the financial windfall that was coming to host cities, and had no control over the structuring of sponsorship deals. When Brundage retired the IOC had $2 million in assets; eight years later its accounts had swelled to $45 million. This was due to a shift in ideology among IOC members, towards expansion of the Games through corporate sponsorship and the sale of television rights.

Brundage's concerns proved prophetic. The IOC has charged more for television broadcast rights at each successive Games. At the 1998 Nagano Games American broadcaster CBS paid $375 million, whereas the 2006 Turin Games cost NBC $613 million to broadcast. The more television companies have paid to televise the Games, the greater their persuasive power has been with the IOC. For example, the television lobby has influenced the Olympic programme by dictating when event finals are held, so that they appear in prime time for television audiences. They have pressured the IOC to include new events, such as snowboarding, that appeal to broader television audiences. This has been done to boost ratings, which were slowly declining until the 2010 Games.

In 1986 the IOC decided to stagger the Summer and Winter Games. Instead of holding both in the same calendar year the committee decided to alternate them every two years, although both Games would still be held on four-year cycles. It was decided that 1992 would be the last year to have both a Winter and Summer Olympic Games. There were two underlying reasons for this change: first was the television lobby's desire to maximise advertising revenue as it was difficult to sell advertising time for two Games in the same year; second was the IOC's desire to gain more control over the revenue generated by the Games. It was decided that staggering the Games would make it easier for corporations to sponsor individual Olympic Games, which would maximise revenue potential. The IOC sought to directly negotiate sponsorship contracts so that they had more control over the Olympic "brand". The first Winter Olympics to be hosted in this new format were the 1994 Games in Lillehammer.

Read more about this topic:  Winter Olympic Games, Controversy

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